New legislation would give fishermen flexibility to grow businesses by refinancing federal loans
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and U.S. Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA-03) and Jared Huffman (D-CA-02) led a coalition of senators and representatives to introduce new legislation that would help support the West Coast’s fishing industry.
The Revitalizing the Economy of Fisheries in the Pacific Act is cosponsored by Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Begich (D-AK) in the U.S. Senate. The House version of the bill is cosponsored by Jared Huffman (D-CA), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Don Young (R-AK), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and Mike Thompson (D-CA).
Many fishing businesses in the West Coast groundfish fishery have struggled to pay high interest rates on federal loans and fees on their catch. This legislation ensures these fishermen receive the same interest rates on federal loans as other businesses, and extends the length of these loans from 30 to 45 years. In addition, the legislation reduces fees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) collects from fishermen to pay down their loans.
In 2011, the West Coast groundfish fishery supported 3,000 jobs and a catch valued at $64 million.
“The fishing industry is crucial to our state’s $10.8 billion coastal economy,” said Cantwell. “In Washington state and Alaska, we have some of the most sustainable fisheries in the world. This bill helps put fishing businesses on a level playing field with other businesses getting federal loans. Groundfish fishermen will receive the flexibility they need to grow their businesses and help spur economic activity in communities all along our coast.”
“This bill will provide much-needed relief to the folks in Southwest Washington whose livelihoods depend on fishing,” said Herrera Beutler. “Conditions have changed in both the economy and the fishing industry since these loans were issued, and too many small fishing businesses up and down our coast are struggling to keep afloat financially. I’m proud to lead this solution with Senator Cantwell, Congressman Huffman and a bipartisan group of our colleagues who want to help save fishing jobs and reduce the squeeze on fishermen’s bottom lines.”
“The success of our local fishermen is essential to the health of the North Coast’s economy, but it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to repay the debt on a decade-old federal loan. The combination of interest payments, new fees, and rising fuel costs are putting small businesses in our coastal communities at risk,” Congressman Huffman said. “The REFI Act will simply let the fishermen refinance their existing loan at today’s lower interest rates—just like any other homeowner or business owner would do. It’s a win-win for small businesses and the environment.”
"From central California to Southwest Washington, the West Coast groundfish fleet has worked with Senator Cantwell and Representative Herrera Beutler, on the introduction of the REFI Pacific Act," said Robert Dooley, President of United Catcher Boats, a trade association that represents fishermen on the West Coast and in Alaska. "Our fishery is on the recovery thanks to catch shares but increased costs will undermine that recovery. This bill will help ensure the success and even survival of our fishery and the 3,000 jobs supported by the fishery"
“A vessel owner in this fleet often ends up paying a significant amount of their revenue toward the repayment of the government loan,” said David Lethin, a fisherman from Wahkiakum County in Washington state. “That’s money that could be used to repair, maintain, and with some luck, upgrade, vessels, gear and safety equipment—something that this Pacific Coast fleet hasn’t been able to afford for a very long time. We are grateful for Senator Cantwell and Congresswoman Herrera Beutler for their willingness to address our needs, and take the initiative to find workable solutions.”
The Secretary of Commerce declared the West Coast groundfish fishery a federal fisheries economic disaster in 2000, because of overcapitalization and overfishing. In 2003, Congress authorized buyback loans for the fishery to decrease fishing pressure and support a catch-share program in the fishery. These loans help eliminate overfishing by buying out the permits of fishermen willing to leave the fleet. The remaining fishermen in the fleet have since been responsible for the loans.
Cantwell, a member and former chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, is a long-time advocate for initiatives that protect the health of the ocean’s resources and coastal economies. Herrera Beutler represents communities throughout Pacific, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum Counties that depend on the fishing industry for economic survival.
Legislation aimed at alleviating the financial hardship of a federal loan that has been weighing on Pacific Coast groundfish fisherman for nearly a decade has moved one step closer to passing, North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman's office announced on Thursday.
Introduced into Congress this week, Huffman's “Revitalizing the Economy of Fisheries in the Pacific Act” picks up where a bipartisan bill introduced in September 2012 by former North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson left off, and would allow for the refinancing of a $35.7 million buyback loan authorized by Congress in 2003.
In a press release, Huffman called the bill -- his second piece of legislation to be introduced since he took office in January -- “... a win-win for small businesses and the environment.”
The opportunity to refinance the loan at a lower interest rate would give local groundfish fishermen the same opportunities as any homeowner or business, and would not require the federal government to spend any new money.
“The success of our local fishermen is essential to the health of the North Coast's economy, but it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to repay the debt on a decade-old federal loan,” Huffman said in the release. “The combination of interest payments, new fees, and rising fuel costs are putting small businesses in our coastal communities at risk.”
The bill, Huffman said, will let fishermen refinance existing loans at today's lower interest rates “just like any other homeowners or business owner would do.”
by Pedro Zapata, July 1, 2013
Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying senior fisheries officials from four Mexican states to Southern California, where they met with fishermen, seafood processors and members of the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). As they establish and reinforce their own fishery management systems and structures, this trip was a chance for Mexican officials to see firsthand a well-established system that has evolved for decades – and generally succeeds – through broad-based stakeholder participation and a commitment to transparency.
In 2007 the four states with Gulf of California coastlines – Sonora, Sinaloa, Baja California and Baja California Sur – were mandated by the new Mexican Fisheries Law to establish fishery management structures. Some are further along than others, but each face daunting challenges; Limited manpower and finances, little governing infrastructure and minimal baseline scientific data that are so critical to fishery management.
The Council considered the most recent information on the status of ongoing fisheries and recommended the following trip limit increases:
- Limited entry fixed gear fishery north of 36° N. latitude: increase the sablefish trip limits from 950 lbs/week, not to exceed 2,850 lbs/2 months to 1,110 lbs/week not to exceed 3,300 lbs/2 months as soon as possible through the end of the year.
- Open access fixed gear fishery north of 36° N. latitude: increase the sablefish trip limits from 300 lbs/day, or one landing per week up to 700 lbs, not to exceed 1,400 lbs/2 months to 300 lbs/day, or one landing per week up to 800 lbs, not to exceed 1,600 lbs/2 months as soon as possible through the end of the year.
- Limited entry fixed gear fishery north of 34°27′ N latitude: increase the shortspine thornyhead trip limits from 2,000 lb/2 months to 2,500 lb/2 months for periods 4, 5, and 6.
- Limited entry fixed gear fishery south of 34° 27′ N. latitude: increase the shelf rockfish trip limits from 3,000 lb/2 months to 4,000 lb/2 months as soon as possible, through the end of the year.
- Limited entry fixed gear fishery south of 34°27′ N. latitude: increase bocaccio rockfish trip limits from 300 lb/2 months to 500 lb/2 months as soon as possible, through the end of the year.
- Open access fixed gear trip limits south of 34°27′ N latitude: increase bocaccio trip limits from 100 lb/2 months to 200 lb/2 months as soon as possible, through the end of the year.
Monterey, San Diego and Fort Bragg groups among recipients - electronic monitoring workshop also a high profile initiative
WASHINGTON, April 30, 2013 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced the third round of grant awards from its Fisheries Innovation Fund, a program launched in 2010 to support sustainable fisheries in the U.S. With the goal of sustaining fishermen while rebuilding fish stocks, the new grants will aid the design and implementation of projects that provide technical and practical support for fishing communities across the country.
"In the first two rounds of the Fisheries Innovation Fund, we invested in innovative ideas to help communities maximize limited fisheries resources, minimize bycatch and explore new monitoring technologies," explained Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. "With our new grants, we will expand these approaches to additional areas, and focus on promoting community-supported fisheries to sustain working waterfronts."
"The Fisheries Innovation Fund supports novel techniques and solutions for improved fisheries management across the U.S., both recreational and commercial," said Sam Rauch, Deputy Assistant Administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service. "Many of the projects originate directly from commercial and sport fishermen to address fishing community challenges and opportunities. Our public-private partnership with the Foundation is the ideal solution to support fishermen's initiatives. We congratulate the 2013 grant recipients, and look forward to working with them as they conduct their projects to support fisheries sustainability."
The 15 grants for 2013 total $1.565 million, and will be matched by over $1.56 million from the grantees. NFWF's Fisheries Innovation Fund is supported by NOAA, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
The 2013 Fisheries Innovation Fund grants, listed by region, are:
Mid-Atlantic:A New Take on Working Waterfront in Coastal North Carolina - Grantee: Walking Fish Cooperative, Inc Fisheries Innovation Fund Award: $83,320; Matching Funds: $300,000; Total Project: $383,320The Walking Fish Cooperative, Inc, in partnership with the Carteret County Harbor Authority, will develop and implement a sustainability plan that demonstrates a new approach to working waterfront development and preservation. The plan will include innovative mixed-use development and non-traditional revenue streams to maintain a working waterfront for a small-scale fishing community in Town Creek Harbor, Beaufort, North Carolina.
Development of e-Harvest Reporting for a Commercial Fishery (MD) - Grantee: Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Innovation Fund Award: $103,963.76; Matching Funds: $100,000; Total Project: $203,963.76The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will develop an innovative electronic reporting system that links daily harvest reports with a hail system to improve data quality, accountability and enforceability of Maryland's commercial striped bass fishery. Outcomes will include accurate and near real-time harvest data necessary for effective management, more efficient operations for Maryland DNR Fisheries Service, and improved economic efficiency and business models for harvesters.
Creating Community Supported Fisheries, Montauk, Long Island (NY) - Grantee: Concerned Citizens of Montauk Fisheries Innovation Fund Award: $55,000; Matching Funds: $55,000; Total Project: $110,000The Concerned Citizens of Montauk (CCOM) will establish a Community Supported Fishery (CSF) in Montauk, New York, the state's largest commercial fishing port. CCOM will use its Creating CSFs application, a community capacity-building program, to strengthen the long-term viability of the Montauk fishing community by generating and fulfilling consumer demand for sustainable, traceable fisheries products, and incentivizing participating producers through elevated profits. CCOM will then develop a best-practices guide to creating CSFs.
Caribbean:US Virgin Islands Digital Deck Pilot Project - Grantee: Ecotrust Fisheries Innovation Fund Award: $168,587.24; Matching Funds: $150,000; Total Project: $318,587.24Ecotrust will develop, test, and implement a prototype electronic trip ticket mobile application to support collaborative fishing efforts, better track and manage fisheries data, and provide information that can aid harvest management decisions. As a result, timelier and higher quality data will enable fisheries managers to more effectively monitor regulations, such as Annual Catch Limits, to better support sustainable fisheries in the Caribbean.
Gulf of Mexico:Gulf Wild Traceability and Data Collection in the Gulf - Grantee: Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders' Alliance Fisheries Innovation Fund Award: $150,000; Matching Funds: $165,000; Total Project: $315,000The Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders' Alliance will implement the Gulf Wild scalable traceability program to add value/market share to the commercial reef fish industry in the Gulf of Mexico. The project will identify tools for fishery and seafood data capture in the seafood supply chain, and will take place throughout the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Gulf of Mexico bordered by Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
Regional Capacity Building of Electronic Monitoring in the Gulf - Grantee: Mote Marine Laboratory Fisheries Innovation Fund Award: $150,000; Matching Funds: $91,435; Total Project: $241,435The Mote Marine Laboratory will establish an electronic monitoring (EM) center to advance the transition of EM to a regional capacity, and improve collection of accurate catch and release data from the commercial Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishery. The center would be located at Mote Marine Lab in Florida, and address the importance of monitoring, standardization of methods, and increasing accuracy and consistency in collection and reporting of data for management. Data capture will occur throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
Pacific:Scaling 'Local Catch Monterey Bay' to Serve Neighboring Community Fishing Associations (CA) - Grantee: Local CatchFisheries Innovation Fund Award: $100,000; Matching Funds: $3,000; Total Project: $103,000The Local Catch Monterey Bay (LCMB) will create a strategy for scaling LCMB to support emerging community fishing associations, fishing cooperatives, and risk pools on the west coast by distributing their seafood to neighboring local communities. This project will develop a marketing and distribution plan, and sustainability metrics to monitor environmental, social, and economic benchmarks. The LCMB currently serves Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties. This project will expand activities across the California central coast to serve neighboring harbors and city centers from San Francisco to Morro Bay.
Reduction of Rockfish Bycatch Mortality in Recreational Fisheries (CA) - Grantee: M/V Outer Limits Inc.Fisheries Innovation Fund Award: $73,245; Matching Funds: $72,841; Total Project: $146,086The M/V Outer Limits Inc. will 1) evaluate different descending devices for releasing rockfishes suffering from barotrauma, and 2) monitor long-term survival and behavior of rockfishes released using these devices. The research conducted for this study will occur off the coast of San Diego, CA. Upon request, the data gathered will be provided for incorporation into management plans and stock assessments, and may have immediate impacts on improving groundfish management along the Pacific Coast.
Branding and Marketing, Next Steps in Sustainable Fisheries (CA) - Grantee: Fort Bragg Groundfish AssociationFisheries Innovation Fund Award: $100,000; Matching Funds: $70,000; Total Project: $170,000The Fort Bragg Groundfish Association will build a branding, promotional and traceability strategy to capitalize on compliance with sustainability measures in the Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) fishery. This project will focus on collaborative action among Fort Bragg fishermen, fishermen from nearby ports in the Central Coast Risk Pool, and non-government partners to launch an innovative strategy which will create the value necessary for a smaller scale fishing port to succeed in an ITQ management program.
North Pacific:Every Halibut Counts: Reducing Halibut Discard Mortality (AK) - Grantee: Alaska Marine Conservation Council Fisheries Innovation Fund Award: $55,000; Matching Funds: $56,232; Total Project: $111,232The Alaska Marine Conservation Council will conduct a collaborative, industry-driven conservation initiative to reduce mortality of discarded halibut in the Alaska sport fishing sector by facilitating broad use of best practices for careful release. The project focus will be on top ports for recreational halibut harvest and discards in both southeast and southcentral Alaska stretching from Craig to Kodiak.
GPS Data Loggers as a Low-Cost Alternative to Vessel Monitoring Systems (AK) - Grantee: Alaska Longline Fishermen's AssociationFisheries Innovation Fund Award: $110,000; Matching Funds: $181,500; Total Project: $291,500The Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association will implement a two-stage field trial to fully evaluate and document the use of GPS data loggers as a low-cost alternative to Vessel Monitoring Systems in Alaska's catch share halibut and sablefish fisheries. The project will be based in Sitka, Alaska with field testing conducted throughout Southeast Alaska.
Testing Electronic Monitoring on Small Fixed-Gear Cod Boats (AK) - Grantee: North Pacific Fisheries Association Inc.Fisheries Innovation Fund Award: $127,400; Matching Funds: $120,000; Total Project: $247,400The North Pacific Fisheries Association Inc. will field test an improved electronic monitoring system on small fixed-gear boats (pot and hook-and-line) fishing for Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska. A comparison of costs of electronic monitoring to costs of observers in this fishery will be made. The project will be based in Homer, Alaska. Field tests will occur in the Gulf of Alaska, Western and Central Regulatory Areas.
Multiple Locations:iAngler - Angler Action Innovations for the Southern Atlantic and Gulf Regions - Grantee: Snook Foundation, Inc. Fisheries Innovation Fund Award: $80,000; Matching Funds: $120,000; Total Project: $200,000The Snook Foundation, Inc. will implement a combination of technical and communications/messaging innovations to augment the number of recreational anglers skilled in recording fishing trip data in a standardized mobile application system, which will then be used to inform stock assessments. Outreach will target anglers throughout the Florida coast, for data collection on species found in the Southern Atlantic and Gulf states in inshore, coastal and offshore waters.
National Electronic Monitoring Workshop for U.S. Fisheries - Grantee: Lowman and Associates Fisheries Innovation Fund Award: $88,984; Matching Funds: $77,000; Total Project: $165,984 Lowman and Associates will convene a national workshop focused on electronic monitoring (EM) pilot studies in U.S.fisheries and EM tools and implementation strategies across regions, including emerging national guidance. The workshop and related website will facilitate information exchange across regions and help address outstanding challenges in implementing cost-effective monitoring systems. This national workshop will take place in Seattle, Washington. Participants and speakers will be invited from all fishery management regions of the U.S.
Developing NFWF Lending and Equity Financing Capability - Grantee: Coastal Enterprises Inc. Fisheries Innovation Fund Award: $119,500; Total Project: $119,500Coastal Enterprises Inc. (CEI) will explore approaches for developing a financing arm within the Fisheries Innovation Fund. CEI will develop procedures to: raise capital, identify and establish deals, create staff capacity to underwrite and service loans and investments, provide for monitoring to ensure collections, develop best accounting practices, and deal with delinquent loan accounts. The findings will apply to financing practices in areas of the U.S. where NFWF would offer a combination of grants and lending capital to support projects.
To learn more about the Fisheries Innovation Fund, visit www.nfwf.org/fisheriesfund.
SOURCE National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
A small Community Supported Fishery (CSF) has purchased its first load of trawl-caught fish.
Siren Fish Company is sourcing local seafood from Monterey to Fort Bragg, and in March they made a long-considered decision to purchase some trawl Dover. On her blog, Anna Larsen, the founder of Siren Fish, describes how she reached the decision to source seafood that many environmentally-minded consumers and hard-core "foodies" still consider off-limits.
"This is a decision that I have been pondering since the beginning of Siren. Trawl nets have been controversial in the past due to the damage they can do to ocean habitats and the amount of bycatch that can end up in the net. I had been told from the beginning, by people who know a lot more than I do, that this was a complicated issue. They suggested that in order to truly support the fishery, I needed to buy some trawl-caught groundfish. This fish and this catch method is a HUGE part of the Bodega Bay and Ft. Bragg fisheries. I was pretty overwhelmed by all of the information out there on the subject and chose to avoid the whole thing entirely until I could think it all over and do more research. Well, I have pondered and researched. I feel like we are ready to take this step."
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces adjustments to quota share (QS) accounts for Pacific halibut in the Shorebased individual fishing quota (IFQ) program, plans for vessel accounts to prepare for surplus carryover in the shorebased IFQ program, and changes to the online IFQ system.
Please see PDF below.
At the April Council meeting, NMFS released the annual catch report for the West Coast groundfish IFQ fishery. You can download the report in PDF format below.
For trawlers, catch of overfished species and rate of regulatory discards are down sharply, risk pools are an emerging trend, and electronic monitoring is on the horizon
The Pacific Fishery Management Council heard reports this week from fishermen who now have two full years of individual fishing quota (IFQ) regulations to reflect on. At their meeting in Portland, Council members heard testimony on a wide range of issues concerning the status of the groundfish “catch share” fishery that began in January of 2011 off the California, Oregon and Washington coasts.
Takeaways? Well, few things are more complex than multi-species fishery management, but here are a few of the themes heard in Council sessions and in the halls:
- Regulatory discards that were effectively required under the old management regime (and amounted to millions of pounds of wasted seafood) have effectively ended. The fleet is now retaining 98.8% of its catch.
- Catch of overfished species is down dramatically and are now less than 50% of pre-catch share levels for all rockfish species.
- In 2012, landings were up slightly (101% of 2011 levels) and revenues were down slightly (by 8%, mostly due to a drastic drop in sablefish prices).
- The development of “risk pools,” – self-policing associations of fishermen who share both information and precious quota of low-population species – represent the vanguard of what may be a revolution in industry self-regulation for multi-species fisheries. In an era of dwindling federal resources, West Coast examples of self-regulation based on full catch accountability may provide a model for other U.S. and international fisheries
- Increased commerce-related quota transfer activity between fishermen (for cash, barter or a combination of both) indicates greater understanding of the IFQ system and increased business flexibility for participants.
Not all the news is good, however. Here are two challenges on the minds of fishermen and regulators:
- For a variety of reasons having mainly to do with the locations of low-quota overfished species, groundfish fishermen are currently harvesting less than 30% of their total allowable catch (TAC).
- And costs for onboard observers, the 2001 fleet buyback loan and a looming 3% “cost-recovery” fee threaten fishermen’s already-narrow profit margins.
Shems Jud, a deputy regional director for the Environmental Defense Fund, serves on the Council’s Groundfish Advisory Panel. At the Portland meeting, Jud echoed the positive news about the stability and improvements being seen along the coast. He also pointed out that in order for the fishery to be sustainable in the long-term, there are important measures that NOAA and the Council must still address.
"Profit margins in the groundfish fleet are thin, but it doesn’t have to be that way; there are steps we can take,” said Jud, who has worked on Pacific groundfish issues since 2007. “In order for fishermen to stay afloat in a fishery where less than 30% of TAC is currently harvested, we must restructure the fleet’s buyback loan, institute more cost-effective monitoring and take every regulatory step possible to encourage catch of healthy and abundant target stocks – while continuing the fleet’s excellent record of avoiding overfished species. If we do those things, both fish and fishermen will thrive on the West Coast.”
On one of those issues, the Council took a significant step this week when they voted for the first time to move forward with a formal process to scope, set performance standards and eventually implement electronic monitoring (EM) for the West Coast groundfish IFQ fishery. That vote begins a process that will take years to fully complete, but it was met with a mixture of relief and good cheer among stakeholders. Currently, the fishery relies on 100% human observer coverage to maintain its “No Overfishing, Guaranteed” status, but the costs of those humans observers is high and getting higher. EM is seen as a way to save on costs, increase fishermen’s ability to time their trips, and improve safety.
(Source: Environmental Defense Fund)
Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) recently announced that he would introduce legislation to refinance a key fishing industry loan to help sustain fishing communities, and support jobs along the Pacific coast.
“The health of our coastal economy is in large part dependent on the success of our local fishermen. But it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to repay the debt on a decade-old federal loan—plus interest—putting our small businesses on the North Coast at risk,” Huffman said. “All we’re trying to do is refinance the existing loan at today’s lower interest rates—just like any homeowner or business would do.”
The Revitalizing the Economy of Fisheries in the Pacific Act of 2013 (REFI Act) would lower the interest rate on a federal loan that the fishing industry used to reduce the number of vessels targeting groundfish like sole, sablefish and rockfish.
This will allow the West Coast trawl fleet to repay the loan in full, ensures its survival and economic vitality and does not require the federal government to spend any new money.
“The portion of the cost for fisheries management that fishermen pay has grown tremendously in recent years,” said Pete Leipzig with the Fishermen’s Marketing Association, which represents 120 trawl fishing boats on the West Coast. “The refinancing of the buy-back loan debt will leave a little more money in fishermen’s pockets, which they can spend in their local communities.”
Huffman will join other West Coast members of Congress to introduce the bipartisan bill after Congress reconvenes in April.